Bethany Children’s Home Record Collection Goes Live

01 Feb 2014

In April of last year we awarded the first ever Mocavo Community Digitization Grant to the Bethany Children’s Home in Womelsdorf, Pennsylvania. We committed to provide up to $25,000 in digitization services to preserve historical records and make them available for free access. Today we are delighted to announce that those important historical records have been digitized and are now free forever at Mocavo.

Bethany Children’s Home is a regional ministry serving over 300 youth and their families every year in Eastern Pennsylvania. The home began in 1863 as one man’s dream. On a trip home from Norfolk to Philadelphia, Rev. Emmanuel Boehringer passed through the aftermath of the Battle of Antietam, where 25,000 men lay scattered across the countryside dead or wounded. As he stopped to help bandage their wounds, many of the men asked: “What will become of my children?” And thus Rev. Boehringer’s dream for an orphans’ home was born.

Bethany Children's Home Collection

Upon returning to Philadelphia, he began taking orphans into his own home at 702 Morris Street. On September 21, 1863, the home’s first resident, six year-old Caroline Engel, arrived at the Boehringer home. Originally called “The Orphans Home of the Shepherd of the Lambs,” the organization began to grow and by 1867 it had found a new home in Womelsdorf, Pennsylvania, where the name was officially changed to Bethany Children’s Home.

Bethany Children's Home Collection

A previous resident of Bethany from 1937-1952, Carl Bloss, initially returned seeking genealogical clues and answers regarding his paternal family, but found that Bethany had no archival program in place. In 2009, Carl began volunteering to organize and properly preserve their significant collections, which include photographs, 16mm motion picture film, scrapbooks, documents, and registers.

Over the past year Mocavo has been working to digitize and transcribe two ledger books containing information about the children who were residents of the home between 1863-1990. The Book of Life, a chronological record of children admitted since 1863, and the two-volume Book of Children, the beginning of a records page for each child from 1886 to 1906. These eventually became a records file for each child, many included a photograph upon entering, admittance information, adoption or foster home, discharge information and other writings pertaining to the child.

Bethany Children's Home Collection

We are inspired by the work that the volunteers at Bethany Children’s Home have done to preserve this information, and are excited to help bring this valuable content online for the rest of the world to experience. We hope you will enjoy learning about the Bethany Children as much as we have enjoyed preserving these documents for posterity.

“Bethany Children’s Home is honored to be the recipient of the first Mocavo Community Digitization grant. We thank our archivist, Carl Bloss, for his diligence and commitment to the preservation of Bethany’s rich history. Bethany appreciates Mocavo’s dedication to make historical records available online, free of charge. We recognize that through this project our records will be accessible on a global level to help people locate family members and trace their ancestry; and we are excited to be able to share this information with those searching,” said Bethany Children’s Home CEO, Kevin J. Snyder.

For more information on the Bethany Children’s Home, please visit http://www.bethanyhome.org/.

Search the Bethany Children’s Home Record Collections Now

Search Bethany Children’s Home Book of Children One Index

Search Bethany Children’s Home Book of Children Two Index

Search Bethany Children’s Home Book of Life Index